Tolling and the Statute of Limitations

Posted on January 23, 2015

Tolling and the Statute of Limitations

Tolling a statute of limitations is often very important for people involved in personal injury cases. We’ve blogged about statute of limitations in personal injury cases before, but it’s a good idea to go over the basics. Essentially, a statute of limitations is a ticking clock that applies to your case. After you suffer an injury, you have to file your case within the amount of time specified by your state’s statute of limitations or you are prevented from doing so. With tolling, the time you have to file a lawsuit is effectively extended.

Stopping the Clock

When we talk about tolling the statute of limitations, what we are talking about is putting the statute of limitations ticking clock on pause. Tolling allows people to suspend or delay the statute of limitations time limit. Depending on your circumstances, there can be several reasons why you might be able to pause the statute of limitations and give yourself more time than you would otherwise have to file a lawsuit.

For example, minors who suffer personal injuries cannot file a lawsuit on their own. They have to have an adult guardian, parent, or some other adult file on their behalf. However, if a parent or guardian fails to file a lawsuit in time, the minor is not necessarily out of luck. This is because the statute of limitations is tolled when a minor suffers an injury.

So, let’s say a 16-year-old suffers a personal injury. The child’s parents do not file a lawsuit on behalf of the 16-year-old. A couple of years pass and the child turns 18. In this situation, the statute of limitations clock is tolled, or paused, and only begins counting down again after the child becomes an adult.

Tolling and Discovery

Similar to tolling is the idea that the statute of limitations clock doesn’t start running until you have discovered your injury. For example, let’s say that you had your inflamed appendix removed. During that surgery, your doctor mistakenly left a surgical sponge in your abdomen. However, you had no way of knowing that the sponge was there, and didn’t discover it until three years after your surgery.

In this situation, the statute of limitations clock won’t likely start ticking until you discover the injury. Even though the statute of limitations for medical malpractice in your state might only be two years, you can still file a lawsuit because you didn’t discover the injury until after those two years had passed.

Tolling and Your Case

Tolling is one of those issues that can sometimes be difficult to apply. Every personal injury case is different, and determining what statute of limitations applies will depend on several different factors. Additionally, knowing if the statute of limitations can be tolled, and if so, how that affects your case, is something that only an experienced personal injury attorney can help with. Even if you don’t believe you can still file a case because of the statute of limitations, you should talk to a personal injury attorney in your area for legal advice.


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